History | Three College Observatory


The Three College Observatory was founded in the late 1970’s by three institutions of higher education in Greensboro, NC, to provide a state-of-the-art telescope for use by students, faculty, and members of the community. A request to the CAUSE Program (Comprehensive Assistance to Undergraduate Science Education) of the National Science Foundation was funded in 1977 with a grant of $236,200.

The observatory was completed in 1981 with telescope first light in May of that year. The observatory was dedicated September 30, 1981. Approximately 1,000 students, amateur astronomers, school groups, and members of the community visit the telescope each year.

The observatory building was designed by W. Edward Jenkins of Greensboro. The building contains 1100 square feet of usable floor space including an unheated observing dome, a darkroom, a small classroom and two lavatories. The observatory dome is 24 feet in diameter and was built by Ash Manufacturing Co., of Plainfield, Illinois. The observatory building was constructed by J. D. Summers Construction of Greensboro, NC at a 1980 cost of some $110,000. Funds for the construction were provided by The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (William Moran, Chancellor).

To learn about studying astronomy at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro click here.

The area astronomers who planned the original instrument and obtained the initial grant included:

  • Dr. Steve Danford, UNCG
  • Dr. Jason Gilchrist, NC A&T
  • Dr. Bob Muir, UNCG
  • Dr. Jerry Meisner, UNCG
  • Dr. Dick Whitlock, UNCG
  • Dr. Sheridan Simon, Guilford College
  • Dr. Rabi Madan, NC A&T


Building the Observatory